Generation Z Travel Industry Research and Insights

Posted by Gemma

As exam season comes to a close for today’s younger generation many will be thinking about and planning their next steps. For those that are finishing A levels (or College equivalents) many may be planning to continue their education via University or chose an apprenticeship. Those that are already at University might be looking to get on to the career ladder. And then there are those that decide to gain a little life experience via travel through a gap year.

When thinking about gap years I’m sure many of those that belong to Gen Y/Millennials think of the classic ‘Gap Yah’ satire by Orlando (aka actor Matt Lacey) that pokes fun at the juxtaposition of young people going to experience new cultures while looking for ‘absolute banter’ and getting wasted at a Full Moon party.

Young man on phone
Photo credit: wikimedia

So are gap years still as popular as they once were? Well I couldn’t find a definitive answer out there with some sources saying they are outdated and others saying that there’s a resurgence. My feeling is that the traditional gap year of backpacking and partying is gone and has been replaced by a more updated version that better suits the ideology of those belonging to Generation Z (born between 1995 - 2006). of wanting to see the world doing and getting relevant experience.

“The day when Mum or Dad gave their child five grand to go and bum around the world are pretty much gone. The onus now is on constructive experience and earning money.”

The Rise of The Ego Traveller

Almost 90% of generation Z are influenced by social media which has given way to a rise in the ‘ego traveller’. The ego traveller being one who is more interested in going on insta-friendly trips so that they can have beautiful posts that feature nonsensical pseudo-philosophical captions. It’s all about getting the right content for their social media followers. We’re already seeing certain travel agents being hit by this like Thompsons 18-30 holiday package. However, this increase in travelling for ego juxtaposes with studies where generation Z say that they want to ‘travel with purpose and seek opportunities to engage with humanity on an authentic level’.

We’re also seeing an increase in numbers of younger people wanting to work abroad with 8 in 10 college seniors in the USA and 56% of UK young people being ambitious to do so. This is possible down to the rise in younger people seeing themselves as being more of a ‘global citizen’ then belonging to a certain country/nation. Has working abroad replaced the traditional gap year? I would say yes it has. The gap year that people in my generation knew is no longer about full moon parties. It’s about getting experience that will help your career while getting that perfect insta post.

Changing Behaviours – Motivation for Travel

Looking at the lifestyle behaviours of UK and US generation z’s both cite experience as being the top the reason for travel but what are their top places to go to and what influences their purchase behaviour:


Stats from:

  • 86% cite experience top reason for travel, followed by adventure 77%
  • Chosen destination is weighted towards Europe (49%), followed by South East Asia (30%) , North America (15%)
  • Majority want to spend between 2 weeks to 3 months away (42%)
  • 38% swayed by low cost


Stats from:

  • 81% of U.S. college seniors want to work abroad
  • 77% want to experience new cultures
  • London tops the list of work-abroad dream cities for college seniors followed by Paris, Sydney and Tokyo
  • 81% consider budget in line with travel plans
    • 93% motivated to book if they think they have found a great deal

What’s really interesting from these stats is that for the UK, it seems that younger people are not as infatuated with going further than Europe. Reasons for this could be:

  • They’re more likely saving to pay for the trips themselves and Europe is less expensive than going to America’s or South East Asia.
  • It’s closer to home – it’s not too far away so if there were any potential emergencies help from family/friends could come quicker.
  • Political unrest/ Visa uncertainty – there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world at the moment. The ‘Trump’ effect has come into full force in America with the J1 Visa coming under threat

But how do we use this information in marketing travel to Generation Z?

Marketing Travel to Generation Z

Based on the research I’ve seen my top tips in marketing to gen z would be:

  • Entice the ego traveller: You could create content like ‘top 5 best insta spots in Peru’. Make them fall in love with the destination before they get there.
  • Highlight career benefits: focus on the reasons why they should travel/work abroad and what they will learn and can add to their CV
  • Reassure them: Travelling without family can be a scary thing when it’s your first time without out that safety assurance. If possible advise them on important numbers or contacts if they get into a stick situation.
  • Offers!: Generation Z are one of the most financial savvy generations out there. We know that they are swayed by a good deal so make sure you highlight these!

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